Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An Apology & Observations After Getting Kicked Out of an Online Forum

Moderating an online forum is a difficult and many times thankless task. So, on the off chance that the moderators of the forum from which I was recently banned happen to see this post, please accept my apology for making your life more difficult. It was not my intent, but looking back with a little perspective I can see how it did infringe and distract from the topic of the forum.

Something that should be easy, but is sometimes very difficult, is to understand the posting rules of a forum. One should not only understand the rules, but how those responsible for moderating a forum interpret and enforce those rules.

I believe moderation is a very important part of the success of an online community. Effective moderation will increase the desire of individual to participate when compared to an unmoderated forum. It certainly makes sense to flag or eliminate behavior that distracts from the topic of a particular forum.

Inconsistent moderation practices can contribute to misunderstanding. When inconsistency is coupled with poor communication practices surrounding infringements the likelihood that certain types of participation will lead to expulsion is increased. Moderators who are themselves very active forum participants run the risk, over time, of losing their objectivity which can impair their moderation tactics.

Regardless of moderation practices, what is difficult for some users is clearly understanding what behavior is considered inappropriate or a distraction by moderators. This is why it is important for moderators to make sure they understand not only the forum, but also take the time to understand the behavior behind a particular member when it is felt that inappropriate behavior is occurring. This is especially true when the inappropriate behavior arises on the part of a user who has not exhibited inappropriate behavior in the past, or has not been a user who has required routine moderation.

The practice of participating on online discussion forums can be an interesting past time. One of the most difficult aspects is understanding the tone of a person's posts. It's quite easy to misunderstand or misinterpret the written message of a user. I seem to have an ability (at times) to rub folks the wrong way. Especially when I'm a little frustrated and trying to say something that I want to communicate with a healthy dose of sarcasm. I admit that sometimes I can also be a bit obnoxious.

I suppose I shouldn't be, but I'm sometimes a bit surprised when I am misinterpreted. Of course, there's always the risk that the people who misinterpret what I say are also completely convinced that the way they see things are the way they actually are. But no matter, I'm certainly guilty of that to from time-to-time myself.

I wish you the best, and happy online discussions.